Jazz @ Carifesta was opened successfully on Sunday the 18th of August in Hotel Torarica. On the Pier and in the Banquet Hall, over a thousand visitors enjoyed the lively festival with performances by artists from the Caribbean, Argentina and the Surinamese Diaspora. The enthusiastic audience had the opportunity to choose from a varied selection.
Musicians and spectators visibly enjoyed themselves during this small-scale event. Undeniable Caribbean rhythms, genuine Paramaribop, impressive fusion songs, great funk and folk tunes, filled the Banquet Hall and resounded over de Suriname River.
The Argentinean singer Milena Salamanca, just 20 years old, opens the festival with folk music with obvious Indigenous and Spanish influences. She sings passionately, accompanied by two guitarists and her father, the multi-instrumentalist Luis Salamanca. In addition to a special drum, father and daughter also play the pan flute, giving their performance a true South American touch. With great abandon Milena and Luis also dance the flamenco. The performance of the Argentineans is a pleasant and relaxed start of the festival, which picks up slowly but surely.
The most recognized Caribbean instrument, the steel pan, is put to use in different ways. Guyana’s National Steel Orchestra (with more than forty members) for example, adds dreamy melodies and swinging calypsos to the decor of the setting sun over the Suriname River. Even the egrets flying over seem happier than usual.
The four fantastic saxophone players from Cuba’s Magic Sax Quartet (Cuarteto de Saxofones de Cuba) bring the Banquet Hall into rapture with their music. The repertoire of these four prominent wind instrument musicians varies from jazz standards such as “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” to an ingenious cacophonous song about an African God, “Sueño di Augun”. Accompanied by the enthusiastic, rhythmical clapping of the audience, the group ends with Maria en la Playa.
From Antigua & Barbuda comes Jazz Duet, with pan & keys. This duo skillfully fills the Banquet Hall with easy listening music and gently flowing calypso – the audience is taken down memory lane with covers from among others The Mighty Sparrow and Lionel Ritchie.
It’s time for one of the highlights: the brand-new Pablo Nahar Trio, which starts working together with total dedication and obvious pleasure. MC Alida Neslo reveals to the audience that this band is planning to continue working together.
Bass player Pablo Nahar, keyboard player Robin van Geerke and drummer Harvey Wirht challenge one another and are well attuned to each other. Their numbers, compositions of Nahar and Van Geerke, alternate between super funky jazz and dry, sensitive and subdued melodies.
The bass seems to resonate in the body of Nahar, and spectators wonder whether Van Geerke and Wirht each secretly possess an extra pair of arms. The number Nene, a tribute to the Surinamese grandmother, contains many recognizable elements for the Surinamese in the space.
As an extra surprise during the last number, the band gets reinforcement from the Venezuelan trumpeter Michael Simon and the American Efraïm Trujillo, whom Nahar used to play with in Fra Fra Sound, which Van Geerke is also part of. The final number, Palm Beach, could easily have been called Overbridge, jokes Nahar who is visibly enjoying himself.
“To hell with North Sea Jazz! We don’t have to go to Curaçao”, Alida Neslo calls out proudly after the performance of the Pablo Nahar Trio.
Then yet another heavyweight enters the stage, with only a flute in his hands. Ronald Snijders gets the audience to sing, clap and dance along to infectious numbers like Saramacca.
On the Pier the energetic “1688 Nonet” from Barbados comes up. The costumes of the players have, except for one, not arrived in Suriname as yet, but that does not spoil the fun. The five superb wind instrument players, the skilled steel pan player and the solid rhythm section deliver infectious, swinging music with reggae and jazz influences. The first five instrumentalists jump down from the stage and continue playing in between the dancing crowd. The atmosphere is great.
Meanwhile, the second Cuban ensemble of the evening is standing on the indoor stage. Los Caribeños gets the public dancing with cha cha cha and other genres of music from the recent past. When the band – in flawless Sranantongo! – plays several numbers of the Surinamese singer Max Nijman – the audience goes totally crazy.
The Afro Bhole Jazz Project presents the steel pan, a typical Caribbean instrument in a somewhat different combination with tabla and saxophone. Of course drums and bass have a prominent presence as well. In this formation Nahar and Wirht shine once again, while starring roles are also fulfilled by Shailendre Madari on tabla, Wilgo Telting on sax and Winston Archer on the steel pan. Keyboard player Sonny Khoeblal completes the illustrious ensemble, which is well-appreciated by the jazz loving public.
And there is more to enjoy: starting on the Pier is the IKO Cross Oversea Project. Famous vocalists such as Steve Mariat, Manoushka Zeegelaar Breeveld and Robert Sordam are standing on stage. New to most of the Surinamese guests, are female rapper Zanillya and singer Sarah Jane Wijdenbosch. Percussionist Carlo Ulrichi, the wind instrument players Michael Simon, Efraïm Trujillo and David Rothschild, bass player Eric Calmes, drummer Eddy Veldman and keyboard player Robin van Geerke are familiar and favored faces. The Diaspora formation presents familiar numbers, but also new material.
The Green Combo is the closing act in the Banquet Hall. The formation consists of students from the Conservatory of Suriname. They impress with well-played pieces, sophisticated solos and enthusiastic interaction. These musicians in training already have quite a bit of stage experience, but this is the first time that they play together, after being intensively coached by Gregory Kranenburg, Pablo Nahar, Sonny Khoeblal and Alida Neslo. The audience enjoys the performance of this new, promising generation of artists. The musical future of Suriname is looking good!
During Carifesta XI in Suriname from the 16th until the 25th of August, musicians receive the exposure and attention that they had to do without in most previous editions. ACO Multi Services (Suriname) and Naniki Caribbean Jazz Safari (Barbados) joined forces to organize the project Jazz @ Carifesta XI, naturally in collaboration with Carifesta XI. Both organizations are working towards more contact and more collaboration between artists with Caribbean roots.
Text: Ank Kuipers | Photos: Edwien Bodjie | Translation: Cassandra Gummels-Relyveld